There are similarities shared by these two degrees. Both offer degrees at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s level. They both have a wide array of career opportunities. What does a Criminal Justice degree offer that could be more beneficial?

For those interested in emergency management (EM), we invite to review our post-Top 10 Jobs with a Degree in Emergency Management.

Job Description

Typical job duties for Emergency Services are to develop plans for mitigation, response, and recovery of all types of human-made or natural disasters, including national security, nuclear plant, terrorist activities, and hazardous materials spills. Additional responsibilities include coordinating emergency planning and response with a wide variety of federal, state, regional, and local officials, and agencies.

Featured Programs

There is no single job description for criminal justice. There are too many branches. Examples are law, cyber security, forensic science, cryptology, forensic psychology, corrections, law enforcement, ballistics experts, federal agencies (FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Marshals, Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration), and more. These choices are one of the advantages of a CJ degree. It affords professional specialties that you can pursue at the undergraduate and graduate level.


An associate’s degree in criminal justice may offer more career opportunities that have the potential for advancement. For example, the occupation of Police and Detectives has a median pay of $62,960 or $30.27 per hour, according to the May 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of whom have a high school diploma. A study conducted in conjunction with the National Police Foundation reported that 51.8% of police officers have a two-year degree. The percentage with a bachelor’s degree was 30.2.

Similarly, you can earn an Associate of Arts or Science in the emergency management field. However, the salary may not match a recent graduate of a police academy. One example is a posting on the Indeed employment site. An Ohio county seeks an Emergency Management Specialist to oversee the Agency’s Training & Exercise program. Even with modest experience, this job pays $17.94 – $24.40 per hour. This rate calculates to an annual salary of $43,680 using $21/hour. This job, however, requires a bachelor’s degree, plus one year of experience.

As of November 2018, San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) pays cadets $45,000, for example. Other benefits include a pension fund, potential four-day week, incentive pay, and promotion opportunities. With a criminal justice degree, you may advance to a Detective whose salary range is $73,080 – $79,020 with the SAPD.

Becoming a police officer may not be on your career list. However, police work is one area of many where you can use a criminal justice (CJ) degree. In this example, the CJ degree is not required to find employment. You have the option of starting in law enforcement and take an online CJ program later. Most EM jobs will need a degree before applying. There is no paid training academy for a role in EM. Your degree is your training for EM work.

Career Considerations

We revert to the BLS category of Police and Detectives because this group has the highest number employed. There are, according to BLS data, 807,000 working in this job category as of 2016. By comparison, the BLS reported 10,100 Emergency Management Directors. The former occupation has a projected ten-year growth rate of 8% or 53,400 jobs. The Directors have a job growth rate of 8% or a change in 800 employees. The small percentage of employment changes through 2026 in EM is not advantageous.

Also, the BLS states that directors should have a few years of experience in disaster response, emergency planning, and public administration in addition to at least a bachelor’s degree. It is worth noting that an EM Director is not comparable to a recent graduate of a police academy. The position of director comes with experience, as does Captain or Deputy Chief of a police department.

For example, the City of Saint Paul had a job posting for an Emergency Management Director ( The posted salary range is $94,265 – $128,253. This wage is comparable to a Captain’s salary in law enforcement. In addition, the referenced website has over 13,000 jobs listed of varying degree requirements and experience in the field of EM. These facts question the validity of a CJ degree being more beneficial. Therefore, students with a bachelor’s degree in either major may be on equal footing concerning salary potential.

Related Resources: 

How fast can I earn a degree in Criminal Justice?

What is a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

What Salary Can You Expect With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?

For Further Reading: 

Top 10 Graduate Degree Programs in Criminal Justice